Tara Wicker, Larry Selders met in 2008
The two candidates who waged the closest Metro Council election fight in recent memory in 2008 will face off again Nov. 6 for the District 10 seat.
Unlike 2008, when Larry Selders and Tara Wicker were vying for an open seat, this year Wicker is the incumbent and Selders the challenger.
Selders lost the 2008 election by just six votes.
“Last time it was a very different race,” said Wicker, a Democrat. “The whole structure has changed.”
One change is the shape of District 10. Redistricting after the 2010 census added Southern University, the Dixie community and Banks neighborhoods. Part of the district’s southern end was cut off and is now a part of District 12.
Selders, also a Democrat, said the addition of Southern University to the district should help his chances.
“It’s a younger demographic,” said Selders, a 2005 graduate of Southern. “Hopefully I can capitalize on those younger voters.”
Both candidates list reducing crime and attracting businesses as the key challenges faced by District 10.
“The two issues go hand in hand,” Wicker said. “When people have a way to take care of their basic needs, there tends to be less reason for people to commit crimes.”
The city must work to reduce the “roots” of crime, which include high poverty and lack of educational opportunity, she said.
“When you look at an area such as Plano, Texas, it has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,” Wicker said. “They also have one of the highest median incomes.”
Wicker said the past three decades have been tough on her midcity neighborhood, something she hoped to forestall in other parts of the city.
“I have very great memories of an area of town that was economically thriving,” she said. “We had everything that we needed in walking distance.”
The city must look at population and demographic trends to anticipate where decline may occur, she said.
“If they would have paid attention to those numbers 30 to 40 years ago in my neighborhood, we would be looking at a different neighborhood,” Wicker said.
Only by addressing those issues will crime be reduced, she said.
“Whenever you see a police officer in a community, you feel safer,” Wicker said.
“Do I think having more officers on the road is going to solve crime? No, I don’t,” she added.
Wicker praised the BRAVE Project, which utilizes a community-policing strategy to reduce violence, and said it was something that should be expanded.
Another element of the solution is to improve education in the district, Wicker said.
“The city-parish and the school system must work hand in hand,” she said. “Make sure our kids at the end of the day are educated.”
District 10 is blessed with intellectual capital that needs to be used, Wicker said.
“I think we have some real good anchors,” she said. “We have LSU, Southern and downtown — District 10 is where everything comes together.”
Selders, who grew up in Old South Baton Rouge, said the district needs to build on its history.
“We have a lot of history in this district with Beauregard Town, Spanish Town, the Garden District, Old South Baton Rouge,” he said. “I think we need to focus on preservation of these areas.”
He cited the destruction of some houses in his neighborhood as well as Blundon Home, an orphanage on West McKinley Street that he said has been torn down to make room for an apartment complex.
“I think it’s important that we work with the residents and developers before we tear down anything,” Selders said.
Selders, who works with troubled youth, said his background gives him a unique insight into what drives kids to crime.
He calls his ideas for dealing with it “preventive maintenance.”
“We can help the kids find employment and get help with their homework,” he said. They “won’t have time to think about crime because you are using your time to make money legally.”
Selders said he would work toward setting up after-school programming at the Leo S. Butler Community Center.
“There’s nothing geared towards keeping young folks off the streets when they get out of school,” he said. “I would set things up now.”
Selders, 30, said he would encourage residents to own their homes as a way to help neighborhoods such as Old South Baton Rouge improve.
“I grew up renting,” he said. “When I bought my home, I realized the importance of owning.”
The election is Nov. 6. Early voting begins Tuesday and ends Oct. 30.